Our new series of ‘Baltic Profiles’ showcases the innovative and creative minds behind everything Baltic Triangle. From digital creators, guitar makers and tech entrepreneurs (and many more).
We will be exploring their personal and professional lives and their role in making the Baltic Triangle what it is today.
Leading up to this weekend’s Liverpool Sound City and continuing our ‘Baltic Profiles’ series is our interview with Becky Ayres, Managing Director of Sound City; one of the highlights of the Baltic Triangle’s annual cultural calendar.
After university Becky worked for a company that specialised in magazine advertising, that worked closely with magazines such as Vogue, ELLE and GQ, but she had always wanted to work in music. Although Becky had no previous experience in the music industry, she used the skills that she had acquired from her job at HMV whilst at university and her advertising expertise to land a role selling passes for music conferences.
‘I found a job that would be working on a music conference in London, and that was about new music tech and start-ups. I sold the passes that people used to buy to go to the conference, it was around the time when companies like the Orchid and CD Baby were setting up and we used to sell them stands at the exhibition.’
Getting involved with Liverpool Sound City
Whilst Becky was working at music conferences she met Dave Pichilingi who had set up Sound City and was intrigued that Sound City was a conference as well as a festival. Using her knowledge from the business aspect of the music industry and her international contacts, Becky asked Dave for a job at the festival. Despite being told no initially, Becky stayed in contact with Dave and a few months down the line she was offered a job at Sound City in 2008.
‘At the time Sound City was very small and new I was part of a very small team, so we built it up and I gained experience from working in all sorts of areas. I was booking hotels, I was working with some of the international managers who were bringing artists over and selling space. We’d do parties with the French music bureau and I’d be selling them packages for the conference side of the festival’.
Her role for the past seven years has been ‘Chief Operating Officer’, which involved day to day management of the festival team, and selling and bringing in money from commercial partners. In addition to all this, the team also launched the record label ‘Modern Sky Entertainment’ in 2017 – a move which led to the role of Managing Director being handed over to Becky.
‘This year feels like I’m more the public face of the festival, and it’s nerve-wracking. Obviously I want 2019 to be a good year, and we are really excited as we are back in the Baltic Triangle again, which is great because it’s such a brilliant home for it.’
Benefits of being based in the Baltic Triangle
Moving the festival back to the Baltic Triangle last year was a great success. Becky feels like the area is thriving, not just for the music scene but also for creative companies, and wouldn’t want to hold the festival elsewhere.
‘I think the Baltic triangle is fantastic. People come here from all over the world to visit largely because the Baltic Creative has made it a really cool area. But not just them, the businesses and individuals have made it cool as well, and it’s just a really exciting place to be and Sound City is really lucky that we’re based here.
‘I think it’s a really supportive community, and I think that people are really passionate about what they do. It’s a community where people will come and talk to each other and people have always been really supportive of the festival. We are so passionate about the area continuing to grow and to be this really exciting place where people can start a business or an idea and be able to run with it. We hope that Sound City can play a part in spot-lighting and help encourage more people to do things in the area.’
Sound City’s role in Liverpool’s music scene
Since starting in 2008 Sound City has developed into Liverpool’s most popular festival, but it is still crucial for the team behind the festival to provide a platform to emerging artists and talent. This year artists from 40 different countries will be showcasing their talent at Sound City, as well as more Sound City + industry panels and special guests such as Hugh Rowntree and Erin Tonkin.
‘Sound City has always been about championing and celebrating new music and new music talents. We wanted to help Liverpool, which is a world music capital, to showcase everything new that was coming from the city. But, we also recognised that there are so many people around the world that want to visit Liverpool so, we wanted to be a showcase for not just UK talent, but for talent all around the world.
The developing role of the Sound City +
‘The heartbeat of what we do is the music conference, we have loads of people from record labels, music managers, agents and promoters that all come to Liverpool to meet each other. We’ve had people from Facebook, Shazam, Twitter, and from Sony that have come to the conference and they’ve always been so excited about Liverpool and what Liverpool has to offer. We feel that it’s not just the artists that we are showcasing, but the industry side as well; something that is really important in helping the local music scenes develop.’
For this year’s Sound City Becky aimed to diversify the artists and offer more to appeal to everyone: ‘Mabel is playing on the Saturday which is quite a different genre headliner for us this year. In the past, we’ve been known as having lots of indie bands, but one of the things I wanted to do was appeal to music lovers of all tastes.’
‘We’ve still got people like Louis Berry (who’s from Liverpool) and someone who is doing amazingly well. Shame are an exciting new rock band, and also people like Stella Donnelly who is just great. It’s crucial to give emerging artists a platform because they need somewhere to have an outlet.’
Becky’s passion for music extends beyond her job as she frequently enjoys going to gigs and also runs a training programme throughout the year to encourage young people to get into the music industry.
‘I do some mentoring for a programme that helps young people that can’t get into formal education try and get into music and business. It’s called Sound City music entrepreneurs training, and it’s a 12-week course. People learn about marketing, how to do a pitch, events, how to set up a record label. We had Queen Zee who came and did a session, we’ve had Ditto music who have also done sessions with us. It’s really informative and worthwhile’.